Second former Unaoil executive sentenced for bribery in post-occupation Iraq

Stephen Whiteley, Unaoil‘s former territory manager for Iraq, has today become the second Unaoil executive to be sentenced for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys. He was sentenced by HHJ Beddoe to 3 years’ imprisonment.

This follows the sentencing of his co-conspirator Ziad Akle on 23 July 2020, another former Iraq territory manager for Unaoil, upon whom HHJ Beddoe imposed a sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

The two men conspired with others to pay considerable bribes to public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients to construct offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf. The new buoys formed part of a series of state-run projects designed by the government of post-occupation Iraq to boost its economy by rebuilding the country’s oil industry and thereby expanding its oil export capacity.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Stephen Whiteley guilty on one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. In the same trial, his co-conspirator, Ziad Akle, was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

Faced with a country in desperate need of reconstruction following years of military occupation, Stephen Whiteley, Ziad Akle and their co-conspirators saw an opportunity to swindle the fledgling state for their own ends.

“The flagrant greed and callous criminality exhibited by these men undermines the reputation and integrity of British business on the international stage. We will not cease in our mission to bring such people to justice.

The convictions followed the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Al Jarah, who admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 8 October 2020.

(Source: UK SFO)

Ziad Akle, Unaoil‘s territory manager for Iraq, has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys.

The new buoys formed part of the post-occupation Iraqi government’s “Master Plan” to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and thereby expand the country’s oil export capacity. To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, Akle, conspiring with Stephen Whiteley and others, bribed public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

In his sentencing, HHJ Beddoe said:

“The offences were committed across borders at a time of serious need for the government of Iraq to rebuild after years of sanctions and the devastation of war. They were utterly exploitative at a time when the economic and political situation in Iraq was extremely fragile.”

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Akle guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Another individual, Stephen Whiteley, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in relation to the same crime. He will be sentenced on a date to be determined.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

Ziad Akle and his co-conspirators exploited a country reeling from years of dictatorship and military occupation to line his own pockets and win business. It is this combination of greed and heartless avarice that led to these convictions.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that the United Kingdom and the SFO will not tolerate criminal activity that undermines the fairness and integrity of international business.

The convictions followed the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Al Jarah, who admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 8 October 2020.

(Source: SFO)

By John Lee.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has secured convictions against two former oil executives who conspired to give corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Ziad Akle guilty on two counts and Stephen Whiteley guilty on one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. The convictions follow the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

In the years of reconstruction following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the three men conspired with others to pay bribes to public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company (SOC) and, and in Basil Al Jarah’s case the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to secure oil contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

The post-occupation Iraqi government had commissioned the South Oil Company to run projects as part of a “Master Plan” to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and thereby expand the country’s oil export capacity. This included the installation of offshore mooring buoys and new oil pipelines.

To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, the defendants and co-conspirators conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients SBM Offshore. Basil Al Jarah also conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and the Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its client Leighton Offshore.

Basil Al Jarah admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys. Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley were found guilty of paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure the $55m contract for the offshore mooring buoys.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation, and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state. They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.

“It is our mission to pursue and bring to justice those who use criminal means to weaken the integrity of business.

The SFO would like to thank the Australian Federal Police, the French Parquet National Financier, the Police Judiciaires of the Principality of Monaco, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) of the Netherlands, the United States Department of Justice, Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police, the National Crime Agency and West Mercia Constabulary for their valuable assistance in this case.

The men are due to be sentenced on 22 and 23 July 2020.

More here.

(Source: UK SFO)

By John Lee.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped its investigation into ABB linked to the Unaoil case.

After a thorough and detailed review of the available evidence, the SFO concluded that this case did not meet the relevant test for prosecution as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The SFO announced its investigation into ABB Ltd in February 2017 following a self-report by representatives acting on behalf of the company.

(Source: UK SFO)

By John Lee.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped its investigation into ABB linked to the Unaoil case.

After a thorough and detailed review of the available evidence, the SFO concluded that this case did not meet the relevant test for prosecution as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The SFO announced its investigation into ABB Ltd in February 2017 following a self-report by representatives acting on behalf of the company.

(Source: UK SFO)

By John Lee.

The trial has begun in London of three British businessmen accused of conspiring to pay bribes totalling $6m (£4.6m) to win contracts in Iraq worth $800 million.

According to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Monaco-based Unaoil bribed Iraqi officials to help Dutch-based SBM Offshore [Single Buoy Moorings], and Singapore’s Leighton Offshore, to secure the contracts between 2005 and 2013.

The Guardian reports that Ziad Akle (44), Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, Stephen Whiteley (64), who was a vice-president at SBM until 2009 before joining Unaoil as its manager for Iraq, and Paul Bond (67) SBM’s sales manager for the Middle East, have all pleaded not guilty.

The trial is expected to last three months.

(Sources: The Guardian, Bloomberg)

Australian construction giant CIMIC, formerly known as Leighton Holdings, has reportedly settled a long-running class action with investors over allegations its senior executives had knowledge of corrupt behaviour relating to the Unaoil bribery scandal that hit the company’s share price.

The class action alleged that CIMIC failed to comply with its continuous disclosure obligations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by withholding from shareholders that its executives “were, or may have been, aware of conduct which was corrupt or potentially corrupt.

The settlement follows the US Department of Justice revealing last month that Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, the two brothers who ran Unaoil, had pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate bribes on behalf of multinational companies to secure contracts in Africa and the Middle East.

In a statement on Friday CIMIC said:

“CIMIC Group Limited has reached a conditional settlement agreement in relation to a class action brought by certain shareholders who acquired an interest in CIMIC between23 November 2010 and 3 October 2013. The settlement will have no material impact on earnings or profit forecasts, and is subjectto approval by the Federal Court of Australia.”

More here.

(Source: WA Today)

Two brothers have pleaded guilty in the US to facilitating the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in nine countries, including Iraq.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), ran the Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil.

They are due to be sentenced on 20th April, 2020.

The following announcement was made by the US Department of Justice:

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and his 46-year-old brother Saman each pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) on behalf of companies to secure oil and gas contracts.

They will be sentenced on April 20, 2020, the department said.

Steven Hunter, a 50-year-old British resident and former business development director, also pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.

The former CEO and chief operations officer (COO) of a Monaco-based intermediary company have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to corruptly facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries. These included Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria. The company’s former business development director also pleaded guilty for his role in paying bribes in Libya.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzales of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office made the announcement.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), each pleaded guilty March 25 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), for conspiring to facilitate bribes on behalf of companies in foreign countries in order to secure oil and gas contracts. UK resident Steven Hunter, 50, former business development director, pleaded guilty Aug. 2, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are set for sentencing April 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2020, before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

According to court documents, former U.S. resident and CEO Cyrus Ahsani and former COO Saman Ahsani managed a Monaco-based intermediary company that provided services for multinational companies operating in the energy sector. From approximately 1999 to 2016, the Ahsanis conspired with others, including multiple companies and individuals, to make millions of dollars in bribe payments to government officials in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria.

Additionally, court documents reflect Cyrus and Saman Ahsani laundered the proceeds of their bribery scheme in order to promote and conceal the schemes and to cause the destruction of evidence in order to obstruct investigations in the United States and elsewhere. Hunter participated in the conspiracy to violate the FCPA by, among other things, facilitating bribe payments to Libyan officials between about 2009 and 2015.

The FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Trial Attorneys Dennis R. Kihm, Gerald M. Moody Jr., Jonathan P. Robell and Gwendolyn A. Stamper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Guernsey, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and UK provided significant assistance in this matter as did the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Eurojust.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

(Sources: US Dept of Justice, Reuters)

Former Unaoil executive pleads guilty to conspiracy to give corrupt payments

Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s former partner in Iraq, pleaded guilty on 15 July 2019 to five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in connection with the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO)’s investigation into Unaoil.

The offences relate to the award of contracts to supply and install single point moorings and oil pipelines in southern Iraq. A court order restricting reporting of the plea was lifted today.

In the same investigation, Ziad Akle, Paul Bond and Stephen Whiteley have been charged with conspiracy to make corrupt payments. A trial is scheduled to begin on 13 January 2020 at Southwark Crown Court.

(Source: UK Serious Fraud Office)

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has commenced criminal proceedings against Unaoil Monaco SAM and Unaoil Ltd as part of an ongoing corruption prosecution.

This follows charges already brought against four individuals for alleged conspiracy to make corrupt payments to secure the award of contracts in Iraq.

Unaoil Ltd has been summonsed with two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

This relates to alleged corrupt payments to secure the award of a contract worth US$733 million to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd for a project to build two oil pipelines in southern Iraq.

Unaoil Monaco SAM has been summonsed with two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

The charges relate to alleged corrupt payments to secure the award of contracts in Iraq to Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore.

The first appearance for the companies will be held at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 18 July 2018.

(Source: SFO)